You wouldn’t hire a manager externally with no experience to run your team, so why promote one? When playing golf, I sometimes know that I used the right club for the shot, and wonder why it didn’t work out how I wanted it to. Apologies to those who don’t play golf, but please bear with me and you’ll understand the point. I know I had the correct yardage, and I know which club I can use to achieve said yardage. There’s no wind and the ball is on the fairway. But the ball comes up short of the green….and a lot short.
The equipment is correct, and the conditions are right, so what’s the problem? My golfing partner enlightens me….’it was the right club, just the wrong golfer’ – and it’s true. It was my ability and the variation in my abilities that caused the bad shot.
I taught myself how to play golf and I have taught myself some really bad habits. I also taught myself how to be a manager, but unlike my golf, I have learnt from my mistakes as a manager purely because I have had the time to do so. And because I have always had management partners to provide me with constructive feedback, unlike my golfing partner who likes to laugh. I am forever the source of amusement for others on the golf course, unfortunately. But that’s ok.
Both scenarios are similar when managing a team. I have experienced constructive, poor and no feedback, and yes, I have experienced other managers laughing at me. But, perhaps all of these people I have met during my career believed that they were helping, but they had all adopted their own bad habits.
It is crucial when managing people that the message you wish to deliver is received appropriately. This is also true when training people.
Finding your new leader
All the pieces are in place, and the new team is ready to go, but we need a leader. We love to promote from within because it’s important for our staff to see progression within the organisation.
Sometimes we choose somebody from within who has worked hard, has been loyal, has the respect of the team, and has shown leadership traits. Sometimes, we choose somebody as a reward for hard work over the years. Sometimes we choose somebody because they’ve been there the longest, and it’s ‘their turn’. There are numerous reasons why we choose who we do, but the biggest failure in organisations is the lack of ‘after sales service’, as I like to call it.
Once we promote, we usually don’t have the time to provide the new manager with the support that they need.
And I get it. And you’re not the only one who does this. And I’ve also done it, but I’ve learnt.
Turning a great employee into a poor manager
In the same way that a bank can turn a good customer into a poor customer by using poor credit management procedures at the outset, managers can turn a great employee into a poor manager by not supporting them at the beginning of their career. And who’s fault is it usually? The customer, or the employee. Generally, for the bank customer, it’s ‘we picked the wrong person….let’s put our recovery plan in action and never lend to them again’, and for the employee, it’s ‘let’s agree an exit plan and hire another’.
Neither work for either. And both approaches cause untold problem later on.
When is the time to teach management to our people?
It’s never too early to start. I have worked in organisations that don’t provide any management training until the person has been promoted to management level. I always ask, how could they know that this person was the right candidate for the role? What was the interview process? How can someone with no exposure to management be able to successfully compete for a management role? And the answer is usually staring you in the face. Huge multinational organisations promoting staff into management roles as reward for their hard work is crazy. And dreadfully unfair to you, your staff and your business.
No prizes for guessing what happens next. This previously excellent staff member is left to sink or swim with no support, and usually a pile of daily reports to complete for their manager. If the manager had required an assistant, they should have hired one. If the role of a manager was to sit and compile reports, they should have hired a reporting analyst.
Time and resources should be spent to ensure that new managers are ready for when their opportunity comes. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that their people are ready for advancement. Next time you are interviewing to bring new people into your organisation, think again before you tell them that there are opportunities to progress within the business.
We return to the old saying of ‘what if we train them and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay?’. People leave to further develop themselves, so why not make sure they’re developing themselves in your organisation?
First year as a manager
The majority of new managers spend less than 20% of their time managing and coaching people. They are judged on their ability to perform their new duties, but seldom do they get an opportunity to shine in their first year. They are generally over-worked and under-appreciated. Other staff look at them and wonder whether they would want that promotion for their hard work. Internal promotion should inspire others to do better, not the opposite.
It’s too risky to put your staff in the hands of a manager who hasn’t been provided the support and guidance to allow them the best chance of success.
What can be done?
Every employer, or manager, should identify the future leaders of their business and help them now – not later. Take time out of your day to spend with the future of your business, and you will definitely see the results. And if you do spend time with them, and they leave, perhaps someday they’ll be interviewing you for a role, and they’ll remember what you did for them.
The most rewarding aspect of my 20 years managing people has been seeing them progress, and yes, sometimes move on. What greater gift can you give somebody than sharing your experiences and helping them grow.
If you don’t have the time to spend with your people, ensure someone does….don’t leave it to chance.
I never took a golf lesson and didn’t practice enough and it’s taken me years to get to where I am now, which is not great, to be honest. But I took lessons in management. I learnt from everyone around me, from the mistakes I made and practiced everyday to be better, and I’m delighted to say, I believe it worked.
Will everyone whom I’ve managed agree? Probably not, so I’ll listen to their points of view. Sure, isn’t that what managing people is all about.
And I love it!!